Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) and Red Data Book (RDB) moths in Lancashire

Searches for any of the species listed below would be much appreciated. Do please let our County Recorders know of any finds with, whenever possible, a photo of the moth, the date found, the site name with a six-figure grid ref and the name of the recorder. If the larval stages are encountered then please take a photo of these and the habitat where found, particularly if it is not a previously known site.


Residents and former residents

Goat Moth Cossus cossus
Although last found in the Formby and Ainsdale areas in 2004, much earlier records are known from Bolton, Lytham and Houghton in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Most finds have been in mid to late June but the moth is present well into July. The larva feeds internally on the wood of Willows, Poplars, Apple, Birch, Ash, Elm and Oak and the moth comes to light.

Freshfield, Lancs 2004 Graham Jones

Forester Adscita statices
The last confirmed record for this moth was from Ainsdale in 2005, but a report from near Haweswater (edge of Gait Barrows) in 2008 strongly suggested this species was involved. Searches should be concentrated initially in the damp flower-rich meadows in north Lancs and the dunes around Ainsdale/Formby specifically during June and July but damp meadows on the edges of moors could also be worth searching. The moth flies during the day in sunny conditions, nectaring on plants such as ragged robin and clover but will use many other plants. The larva feeds on common sorrel. The habitat requirements of the similar Cistus Forester (dry limestone with lots of rock rose) together with a slightly earlier flight period should help to separate the two species.

Ainsdale 9.7.05 P Gravett

Anania funebris White-spotted Sable Moth
This moth is confined to the lowland limestone pavement of north Lancashire. It can be found flitting low and fast in the mid May to mid June sunshine near its larval foodplant of golden-rod. Searches of the higher limestone areas have so far failed to produce the foodplant or the moth but anywhere the plant occurs, particularly on limestone, would be worth checking.

Gait Barrows 17.5.08 C Barnes

Netted Carpet Eustroma reticulata
Found for the first time in Lancashire during 2009, this moth is restricted to damp areas of woodland where the touch-me-not-balsam occurs. To avoid disturbance to this very rare moth and its larva, it is requested that any planned searches for this species should be co-ordinated beforehand with Graham Jones.

Cumbria 2005 Graham Jones

Argent & Sable Rheumaptera hastata
Last recorded in Lancashire in 1980, this moth may now be extinct in the county, but it still occurs just across the Cumbria border (Meathop Moss) and in one part of Cheshire. Some of the last records came from the Warton Crag area. It is a day-flying species preferring warm and sunny conditions in May and June whose larvae feed on Birch and Bog Myrtle. Searches of the county's lowland mosses may still turn up this strikingly marked black and white moth, although care should be taken as well marked specimens of the Common Carpet might cause identification problems. A photo is essential for confirmation of the record.
Barred Tooth-striped Trichopteryx polycommata
This moth is restricted in Lancashire to the woodland edge and scrub on limestone around the Silverdale area extending eastwards to Dalton and Henridding. Nationally, the larvae of this early season species (flying in late March and April) utilises wild privet and ash but it is not known which it utilises in Lancashire. It is readily attracted to both actinic and mercury vapour lights. Torchlight searches for ovipositing females would certainly be a worthwhile project, as would looking for the larva in May and June.

Gait Barrows 22.4.08 C Barnes

Belted Beauty Lycia zonaria britannica
Rediscovered in Lancashire in 2001 on the coastal saltmarsh between Potts Corner and Sunderland Point, annual surveys of the moth and its larva take place both as organised events and by individuals. Searches of adjacent areas of saltmarsh have so far failed to produce any further sightings but would still be worthwhile. Historically there have been records from the south Lancashire coast and searches of its more usual dune habitat, in the Ainsdale and Formby areas would be an excellent project. The moth can be found on the ground during the daytime from late March through to early May and the distinctively striped larvae in June and July.

Potts Corner March 2005 S.Palmer

Sword-Grass Xylena exsoleta
Almost certainly extinct now in Lancashire, the moth has declined considerably across much of Britain. It occurs as an adult moth from September to April, hibernating during the winter months and comes to ivy and sallow blossom. The similar Red Sword-grass still occurs at similar times and on similar nectar sources. Any reports of this moth must be accompanied by a photo.

Species with no confirmed records but which could well be worth looking for

Pyrausta sanguinalis Scarce Crimson and Gold
The beautiful little pyralid moth is a species of coastal dune slacks where plenty of the larval foodplant (thyme) occurs. It is present on the Isle of Man and sites such as the St Annes dune nature reserve where patches of thyme occur would be well worth checking for this moth. It flies in sunny conditions in June and again in August but also comes to light. Reference is made in Barry Goater's Pyralid book to it occurring in the Lancashire dunes but no associated records have been found.
Chalk Carpet Scotopteryx bipunctaria
Despite the lack of records from our area, this moth, which is readily disturbed during the day and comes to light, might occur in the limestone areas of north Lancs. The adult is on the wing in July and August and the larva feed on bird's-foot trefoil.
Dark-bordered Beauty Epione vespertaria
Although a real long-shot, any upland wet and lightly wooded areas where creeping willow still occurs in quantity would be worth a check for this attractive moth. It only occurs at one or two other northern English sites in Yorkshire and Northumberland and a few others in Scotland. Just after sunrise and at dusk in late July and August would be the best time to target this species in suitable habitat.
Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth Hemaris tityus
The possibilities of finding this day-flying hawk-moth do seem rather slim, particularly after the many years of searching that have taken place already in areas where devil's-bit scabious occurs. However, it has colonies across much of Britain and must be worth bearing in mind when out walking in damp flowery meadows or along the wide woodland rides on limestone when the sun is out from mid-May to mid-June.
Rosy Marsh Moth Coenophila subrosea
This species was found in Cumbria (Roudsea Wood NNR) a few years ago and would certainly be worthwhile looking for in the few remaining lowland raised bogs where Bog Myrtle occurs. Searches should concentrate for the larvae in spring and the adult in August.
Northern Dart Xestia alpicola alpina
This is very much a high ground species (above 1500ft - 460m) and is believed to occur as an adult in the Pennines in odd years. The larval foodplant is cowberry and the moth flies from late June to August very late at night but also occasionally in hot sunshine. Any searches should be centred on concentrations of the foodplant.
White-spotted Pinion Cosmia diffinis
There is doubt as to whether this moth has ever been recorded in Lancashire and searches of locations where mature elm still occur have always drawn a blank. Its main flight period is in August should you fancy looking for it. Searches in the past have concentrated in the Roeburndale woods. As an incentive, records of any of this elm feeding group, which includes Lesser-spotted Pinion and Lunar-spotted Pinion would be extremely welcome as neither has been seen for many years in the county.

Please send details of any of the above to Justine Patton, Moth Officer as possible after the finds.